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Bridgnorth theatre still faces uncertain future as performance restrictions remain

By Dominic Robertson | Bridgnorth | Theatre & Comedy | Published:

As huge parts of the economy prepare to open up, others, such as theatres, are still facing an uncertain future.

LAST COPYRIGHT SHROPSHIRE STAR JAMIE RICKETTS 03/04/2020 - The manager of Bridgnorth's Theatre on the Steps has launched a talent show as the theatre is closed due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. In Picture: Iain Reddihough....

Government guidelines have allowed theatres and music venues to reopen from July 4, but in a frustration for many they will not be permitted to host live performances.

For some, like Bridgnorth's Theatre on the Steps it means no change to the decision at the outset of lockdown, which saw them scrap all performances until September.

The venue is one that only deals in live performances so the government permission which would allow it to screen shows has no impact on its plans.

The theatre has been running since 1964 and hosts more than 200 live performances every year.

A previous performance at the Theatre on the Steps in Bridgnorth

It has a capacity of 180, but under social distancing measures this would be drastically cut to just 18.

Artistic director, Iain Reddihough, said the ongoing uncertainty was frustrating, but that the safety of volunteers, performers, and those attending, is most important.

Regarding the government's concession over 'non-live' performances, Mr Reddihough said: "If it is not a live performance it is either a video or a film which is not something we are equipped to do, so it means we effectively cannot reopen because the very nature of the theatre is it hosts live performances.

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"So we are in the same position we were in last week and we are closed until further notice."

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He added: "It is frustrating but we recognise the need for further protection and social distancing and keeping people safe.

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"In terms of a small theatre like ours it makes it very difficult, if not impossible to reopen. If we had social distancing we would probably have a capacity of 18, when we normally have a capacity of 180.

"It is just very frustrating but we do recognise the need to keep people safe.

"I think we are always trying to see the whole viewpoint and the perspective of the government, by them opening multiple stores that intends to get the economy going, but I think sometimes they forget the contribution to society and the economy that theatres and the arts make."

Mr Reddihough said that in some aspects the theatre had not faced as great an impact as some venues due to the fact it is run by volunteers and not paid employees.

Some large theatres have had to make staff redundant as they attempt to cope with a complete loss of revenue.

However, he said the impact would also prove greater for smaller theatres which are unable to safely allow enough people in to make performances cost effective.

He said that he hoped the government could do more to help those venues which find themselves in an impossible position due to social distancing requirements.

He said: "I do think the government could and should do more to help theatres, particularly the small ones which have an inability to maintain performances.

"Not just helping financially but also with advice for how to kit out the theatre in what they and their scientists say would be a safe way to hold live performances."

Mr Reddihough said that the theatre is still hoping to return to hosting performances in September.

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